Finishing a half marathon makes runners feel like a superhero. And when doing so in the most magical place on Earth, it’s hard not to feel like fearless, magical and like a princess.
The Disney Princess Half Marathon really is a magical race.
And after just completing it, with the swoosh of her wand, this runner can reveal what magic awaits participants who want to do it next year.
Magic Is In The Air
Run Disney events are just so special. These are unique experiences that are bucket list races for many runners. From the race expo until crossing the finish line—and actually beyond when visiting the parks, the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend is what dreams are made of.
The weekend kicks off with the 5k on the Friday of the weekend (next year, Feb. 21, 2020), followed by the Disney Princess Enchanted 10k on Saturday and the runDisney Kids Races, and the Disney Princess Half Marathon on the Sunday. There is also the option to do the Fairy Tale Challenge that consists of 19.3 miles in two days. This includes the 10k and the half marathon. Those who do this option get a medal for each race plus a third for the challenge.
From fireworks blasted off after each corral starts to snapping photos with characters and then running through Magic Kingdom, there is no shortage of excitemnet. Racers are greeted my Minnie Mouse at the home stretch before crossing the finish line to be awarded their medal and get sprinkled with pixie dust.
For anyone who appreciates Disney, the Disney Princess Half is everything they can wish for and more.
Not All Fun And Games
With that said, there are things to take into consideration when signing up for the Disney Princess Half. For starters, it’s an expensive race costing $205 and $350 for the challenge. This doesn’t include airfare, hotel and park admission. However, there are Disney planners who can get participants deals on packages.
Another thing to keep in mind is the early start time. These races start at 5:30 a.m., which means rising way before the sun shines to get to Disney property. The longer Sleeping Beauties keep their eyes closed, the more traffic they need to face thanks to road closures. I did find it hard to go to sleep the night before so early, but the morning wasn’t so bad because you are pumped up and anxious to get to the starting line in time.
There are also lots of people who sign up for this race. There were 20,100 finishers at the 2019 Disney Princess Half Marathon. Expect to wait a long time for corrals to go if in later assigned letters as well as long lines at character spots along the course for pictures. For example, we arrived at Epcot at 4 a.m. before the parking lot closed and didn’t start running until 6:30 a.m. I did move down in corrals to run with my friend. The problem is she didn’t enter her time online, so she was placed towards the end of the pack. Do yourself a favor and submit your latest half marathon time.
I will say the most annoying aspect of the race was that I didn’t feel like we were racing. This also made it the best part. We constantly had to dodge walkers and slower runners, stopping and speeding up. But I went into the race without thinking of it as one. I felt relaxed with no time pressures. I was able to enjoy running with my best friend and soak in the experience. A part of me had to turn down my competitiveness, but by going into it without a racing state of mind I was able to breeze through this half. This was my 6th half marathon and never once did I ever consider it “easy”– until this race. I credit this is a slower more relaxed pace, and less thinking of discomfort and more about how great it is that I get to do this.
I also did hear people in the parks later in the day saying that they should do half marathons outside of run Dinsey events to be able to get in early corrals to get more pictures when walking. If you are a half marathoner, do yourself a favor and put your time in to be grouped with others your pace to avoid stopping on the course.
Don’t forget that this is a half marathon so being properly trained is a must. After doing a half in October and a 15k in November, I just continued running regularly and did follow a half marathon training plan. However, it was much more loosely followed such as skipping a short run to cross train or going for 10 miles instead of 12.
Then again there are lots of people who walk the course, which is doable as long as they finish before the cut off time. This does bring another hurdle for those who really want to run it as I mentioned. There is the constant slowing down and speeding up to get around and though packs of walkers. There are is heavy foot traffic on certain parts of the highway and especially during certain stretches at Magic Kingdom.
The weather is another big factor. This race does take place in Florida, and while February brings questionable weather each year, be prepared for the heat once the sun comes up those later miles. This means staying hydrated before and during the race, wearing lightweight clothes/costumes, and strategizing to get most mileage in while the sun is still down. The weather was perfect, being overcast but it was still hot. I was sweating from mile 1. I do think if the sun was beaming that I would’ve really struggled on those last highway miles.
Big Dreams, Big Rewards
Many runners can only dream of how exciting this race is. And it really does live up to its expectation. It is a large scale race that brings all the bells and whistle with it. While this does mean crowds, this doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. Everyone roots for each other along the way. There was a woman in tears when we were so close to the return to Epcot. We all starting shouting words of encouragement. She wiped those tears and pushed on. There are ChEAR Squad sections for loved ones to clap, wave and cheer for participants, and that energy is always amazing.
Runners need to through all competitiveness out the window and go into this race to have fun. It honestly was the most fun I’ve ever had racing, let alone while running 13.1 miles. It is hard not to smile when seeing your favorite Disney character, seeing a movie montage on a jumbo screen or hearing a live band along the course.
The best part of the race is being able to stop and take fun photos with the characters. This is another reason why it’s impossible to run for time. But if you don’t stop, chances are you will regret it. Stop for at least two characters to get those photo mementos. This is the whole point of a Disney race. Practice your pose while waiting in line to make it fun. There is sometimes park staff that tells runners how long the wait line is for a character. We were told Belle had a 10 to 15-minute wait, but it was more like about 10 the max. Remember it’s just a click of the camera and then runners are off again. These lines do move fast.
When making to Magic Kingdom and running under the castle, it’s impossible not to be filled with cheer and excitement. No matter how hard the mileage is getting, once seeing that castle and Epcot’s iconic sphere, it’s like pixie dust magically is sprinkled on the runner and they all of a sudden feel light on their feet again with the feeling like they can fly past the next few miles or through that homestretch.
As big of the dream it is to be so lucky to run Disney, racers get some really big rewards with finishing. This includes a finisher medal that changes its character every year. This year it was Princess Aurora on the Princess Half medal and Jasmin for the Challenge medal. The medal Is big and just looks great. Racers can be seen for days after the weekend wearing theirs proudly around their necks in the parks and Disney Springs.
Disney Princess Half participants also get a tech t-shirt that changes every year. Even more race merchandise can be purchased at the race expo like custom ears, shirts, jackets, ornaments, water bottles, headbands, sneakers, outfits and more.
A Magical Experience
Finishing a half marathon is a special feeling. And doing so is just so much better when doing it in the most magical place on Earth.
The Disney Princess Half Marathon is an event worth running at least once. But chances are runners will want to do it, or one of the other run Disney events again. It can be a costly venture, but worthwhile for those who are Disney fans, love to travel, looking to vacation and cross a race off their bucket list.
It is magical in every sense of the word. It allows the runner to feel lighthearted and like a kid again, able to just run for fun like we did while chasing friends in our childhood while experiencing the pure joy of Disney.
There are men who run this race, but being in a pack of predominately women, it’s empowering to be part of this sea of people. Finishers become part of that world of Princess alumni and have the pleasure of sharing their experiences with others.
All participants cross that finish line experiencing that magical feeling of a major victory. With medal hung around their neck and a sprinkle of pixie dust in their hair, finishing the Disney Princess Half Marathon is a magical ride that has all who complete it immediately earning an imaginary crown that remains on them well after the race.
My Tips To Running The Disney Princess Half
- Forget about time and just have fun!
- Be patient with the large crowds and use the time to soak in the experience.
- Do this race with a friend! It’s much better to do with your favorite running pals. I didn’t even listen to music once, filling the miles with great conversation. It also helps to have a buddy for motivation when things get tough. Not to mention someone to take cute pictures with!
- Make it a family vacation. I was lucky enough to run the half then spend the day in the parks with my family. It was the best way to celebrate with taste Disney snacks and drinks around the world at Epcot! I planned a whole week of fun for my toddler who was Disney obsessed. We made lots of great memories post-race.
- These races sell out early, so register as soon as you can and start saving/planning for the vacation. This does mean a commitment to the race, so make sure you will be up for it.
- Plan those little details like transportation, race expo day and where to meet family after the run beforehand to ease nerves and have everyone on the same page.
- Disney photos can be pricey, but if going to the parks it’s worth getting the unlimited Photo Pass for $199.99. Racers can link up to 5 race bibs and get all their race photos and all their Disney park photos. This is well worth it if doing 2 days of the theme parks plus stopping for lots of character stops.